Monday, May 18, 2015

fish town

      He rose to meet the day. A dense fog hugged the lakefront. It tried to spoil everyone's business. The fishing shanties seemed like gray ghosts in the thick air. Crowded shoulder to shoulder in the chill they emerged and retreated into the mist. He wasn't going to give up that easily. He brushed off the claustrophobia and paid close attention to the ground beneath his feet. Experience told him to find a scene and sketch it nonetheless. 

He sized up the doorway ahead. The way it looked through to a boat and a shanty on the other side of it. Yes. That would work. He held his sketchpad with his left arm and steadily made light pencil marks with his right hand. He placed the threshold near the bottom of his page. Flicks on either side of the doorway suggested the exterior wall. His eyes and head tilted up. Quick lines framed the roof and the second story at the top of his page. Just enough marks to describe the building. Parallel strokes created the horizontal roof boards. His persistence paid off. He knew what he needed.
It was the way he gathered information. To make himself comfortable with the subject. So that it could be colored with washes from his kit. The fact that it had almost rained was not lost on him.

As the sun rose above his head more of the clouds were burned away. He could hear the knocking of footsteps over the boardwalk. Others were out drawing and painting in Fish Town. The last of the moisture cooled his neck as he found another spot from which to work.

That afternoon he focused on figures. Men were gathering their nets and laying them out to dry on the wooden reels.
Drawing with black ink and trying to capture form while it was moving was always a trick. 

His page was full of THIS moment, 

THAT sea gull, 

an arm reaching over,
and a head tilted forward. Linear snapshots. 

carefully, were then interrupted by the

of the figure he had been drawing.   


It was the classic adage of "trial and error." 

He could draw a hand, 
maybe the back of a head 
and add a hat to it.
But people  

too fast.

If they would ONLY  POSE, or FREEZE in space, he would be able to draw that.

He thought of examples from his bound journal. Guys leaning against the counter at the campus library.

Friends chatting at a table.


A classmate, one row over from him, during religion class.

Goofy caricatures of his Valparaiso instructors, Waldschmidt and Wismar.

 The man asleep on the "L" train 
that he did in charcoal.
His ink studies from standstill drawings by Eugene Delacroix at the Art Institute.

The Life Class models, both male and female, who held their long poses for the drawing students at Ray Vogue Art School.

Gee. Even the dead insect specimens he drew for zoology class were easier to manage than these men, as they spread their nets.
The sights and sounds told him why the locals called the village "fish town." The squacking gulls, the smell of fish and maggots running all over the place. I could get used to this, he thought to himself with a grin.

The day ended with him sitting on the sands of Lake Michigan watching the sun set in a blaze of color. The water became orange blue or was it green, he thought, as he watched the blue edge of water nestle along the shoreline. Across from him the island was a deep purple. The traces of sun shone a deep rich red. He went back to his apartment and listened to the Lewis-Walcott fight. 

The night was full of talking. He stepped out into the night air and chatted with the women. All of that bunch were art students from East Lansing. The one called Lydia talked about her paintings. What a day it had been for all of them. He had finished four watercolors and a bunch of sketches. And from the looks of it Lydia made some nice watercolors too.

                          #   #   #  #

[Pencil, black ink, charcoal and watercolor drawings by Reinhold Marxhausen, journal sketch, June 1948. Courtesy of Marxhausen Estate LTD, Seward, NE. Story by Karl Marxhausen, copyright 2015. The narrative was based on journal entries by Reinhold Marxhausen, from June of 1948]

Sunday, May 17, 2015

in on it

"The backyard show in Long Beach was Art's idea, I'm sure."      Richard Wiegman, Portland,Oregon
(Above, left to right: Gerry Brommer, Arthur Geisert, Dick Wiegman, Reinhold Marxhausen) Double click on images to see more details.

In 2014 I asked Geisert about the backyard exhibit. He told me all the metal and ceramic works were done by Marxhausen. Watercolors were by Brommer. Oil paintings were by Wiegman and Geisert. The seated woman and boy subjects were by Geisert. He said he had painted a copy of Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters.”

I asked Geisert who Gerald Brommer was.
"He was an art teacher at the Lutheran High School. Dick Wiegman and myself attended that school. Dick was a year ahead of me. We both went to Concordia in Seward."  Sept 29, 2014 
Brommer was instrumental for sending talented high school graduates, like Wiegman and Geisert, on to Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Nebraska, now known as Concordia University.

There was a story I had heard growing up about bicycling to Nebraska.
Geisert answered:
"In 1959 John Anderson and myself bicycled from California out to Seward. We camped out and slept along the road. It took us 6 weeks to get to Seward. Sometime later, Dick and I bicycled back to California. That took 5 weeks to get back. Road construction had gravel piles
which were easier to scoop out nest to sleep in, rather than on the hard ground. Back then, we’d biked 80 miles a day. There were two mountain ranges. We rode up to the top of a pass and spent the night. It was COLD. Next day we coasted 10 or 12 miles down the other side."   Sept.29, 2014  

 Both Geisert and Wiegman were taking art classes at Seward prior to and after this photo. During Christmas break of 1961 Geisert hatched the idea of having an impromtu art show in his parents backyard. His parents lived in Lakewood, CA. Both Wiegman and Geisert had returned home over the break and brought current art projects with them for that one day exhibit. Reinhold Marxhausen with his wife Dorris, and sons Karl and Paul were living in Oakland, CA. Marxhausen had just completed the fall term of graduate classes at Mills College. He was working toward his Master in Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in sculpture. Reinhold, also known as "Marxie," hand-lettered the sign for the exhibit on his car (see top photo).

According to Gerry Brommer, the college art professor had spoken to an conference of Southern California Lutheran school teachers in 1960, one year before he moved his family to Oakland and his sabbatical graduate classes began (click above). 
"I believe he was the keynote speaker. He might have spoken on creativity. He may have showed slides of a farm where an art event was held. I remember he stayed at our house. He came out a day earlier. He and I drove down to the Los Angeles Harbor and spent time painting where the big ships and fishing boats are. I painted too. He ended up with my paintings and I with his. My wife tells me the painting has the date 1960 on it." Jan. 19, 2015
Los Angeles Harbor by Reinhold Marxhausen

Brommer on Marxie:
"He was a strong influence, I’m sure. Maybe more so, since you were in his family. I have a couple things he made for me. Some plaques he designed just for me, made of metal and ceramics. He was prolific. January 19, 2015

Gerald F. Brommer LINK  Richard Wiegman LINK  Arthur Geisert LINK   Reinhold P. Marxhausen LINK

(quotes from phone interviews with Karl Marxhausen. Richard Wiegman - October 22, 2014; Gerald Brommer - January 19, 2015; Arthur Geisert - September 29, 2014; photos courtesy of Marxhausen Estate LTD, Seward, Nebraska)


Friday, May 15, 2015


If I stand by one knothole on a wooden floor in an arena, and talk just about the one knothole I will miss the whole array. The community context of which the knothole is a part.

As I look through the materials of Reinhold Pieper Marxhausen I find plenty of calendar dates for meetings, workshops, classes, and the like. Basically, knotholes.

There was a book Dad kept around the house when I was growing up called Sound Sculpture. Dad's metal works were on pages 68 to 79. Complete with photos and text. There was one other guy in the book whose music I had listened to. Harry Partch. His album was called the "Delusion of Fury." I can't remember if it was Dad or me that checked it out from Link Library. I loved the click clacks, violin whines and low chanting. It was an orchestra of hand built instruments Partch made himself and the whole album was amazing. Listen to it here  and the staging of the performance here

As an organizer, I now realize that Dad's work was not done in a vacuum. Indeed many curious folks were experimenting with steel and funny-looking contraptions, pushing the boundaries of art and music. Just like Harry Partch had done. The book that was a trophy at our house was assembled and authored by John Grayson of Vancouver, Canada.

According to Grayson, Doris Shadbolt and Tony Emery of the Vancouver Art Gallery arranged the Sound Sculpture exhibit which involved most of the artists described in the book. He credited David Rosenboom, Joan Costello, and Stuart Calder.

Thanks to Mr. Grayson and his associates the discoveries of Marxie got to be shared around the world. From the Table of Contents one can see the bigger net, the great catch of Grayson, and the folks who like Marxie were fascinated and captivated by the sounds they created.

Dad was 53 years old when the book came out. I was a freshman at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. My brother was at Seward Senior High School. Sound Sculptures was published in 1975 by the Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada.

Part 1: Essays on Sound Sculpture
Structures Sonores
Structures Sonores and the Future
Sketches of Large Scale Baschet Sound Sculptures
Sound Sculptures
Animation: Stephan Von Huene's Sound Sculpture
Photo Albums
Variations on the Theme for Listening to Door Knobs
The Evolution of My Audio-Kinetic Sculptures

Part 2: Heritages and Attitudes
Monophonic Just Intonation (excerpted)
No Barriers
Lou Harrion's Music Primer (excerpted)
The New Landscape in Art and Science (excerpted)
The Graphics of Musical Thought

Part 3: Future Directions
Vancouver Piece
Videotape kitchen Notes
Visual Music - A New Art Form
The Simulation of Moving Sound Sources (excerpted)
Corporeal Sound Sculpture
A Sound Awareness Workshop

Part 4: Practical Projects and Possibilities
A Western Gamelan
Sounding Space: Drawing Room Music
The Amplifying Clavichord
A Musical Carillon
A Concert of Factory Sirens and Steam Whistels
Rain Music 2: A Large Scale Environmental Sound Sculpture
A Sound Activated Sound Sculpture
Sound Sewage
Selected Readings
A Request to Sound Sculptors/ Photo Credits

About the Author:
John Grayson is a sound sculptor, university lecturer, experimental theatre producer, and farmer. He also occasionally produces television programs for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Over the years he has organized and conducted numerous workshops, seminars, international conferences and exhibitions for a diverse range of institutions in such areas as: the theatre arts; perceptual awareness; computer art systems; sound sculpture; expanded music systems; and various facets of music education. He is currently the Managing Director of the Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada.

For more images from that book, CLICK on,+1975,+Sound+Sculpture&biw=1024&bih=710&noj=1&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=MANWVbfIBcndsAW86YCgBg&ved=0CB4QsAQ, accessed May 15, 2015.

(photo of Vancouver Art Gallery awning by Melissa Baker,, accessed May 15, 2015)
(Marxhausen pages, courtesy of, Accessed May 15, 2015)